Friday, December 10, 2010

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL Q&A: Ravens @ Texans reached out to me recently to do a little Q&A on the Ravens Monday Night battle against the Texans.

The Ravens' disappointing offense seems to be taking the brunt of the criticism following last week's loss to the Steelers. Baltimore has a lot of talent on its offense but owns a middle-of-the-pack attack. If Cam Cameron asked you, what would you suggest to improve this underperforming unit?

1. Improve on third down: John Harbaugh recently pointed out that the Ravens' failures in that department stem from too many third and long situations. For me that means Cameron needs to be more productive on first down. Short passes early in the down and distance sequence can be an extension of the running game which by the way is struggling. This allows Cameron to open up the playbook when he's in second and 5 and third and 2 situations. Set up the run with the pass and watch the league's 18th ranked third down offense improve.

2. Slow down the defense: One of the best ways to exploit defenses is to get them to play slower. They'll play slower if they have to think more. Less predictable formations and sub packages with a few gadget plays will force a defense to hold their ground for a split second longer and those split seconds are often the difference between a failed or successful play.

3. More Willis! McGahee is a very capable blocker and as such there's no reason not to have him on the field with Ray Rice at times. His presence places more pressure on a defense than Le'Ron McClain. I'm not suggesting that McGahee become the team's fullback, but instead become a more utilized multi-dimensional talent.

4. Unleash Flacco! It's time for the Ravens signal caller to grow up. He has 49 career starts under his belt (5 playoff games) and it's time for Cameron to trust in him some more, allowing him to use audibles in order to make the proper presnap adjustments.

5. We Like to Move it Move it: Get the plays in more quickly...The Ravens don't leave much time for presnap adjustments. When Flacco finally gets to the LOS, he usually only has time to set the offense and then run the called play and sometimes those plays are doomed from the start. Watch how the better QB's get to the line early, bark out false snap counts to get the defense to commit or show where the blitz is coming from. That allows the QB and the offensive line to adjust and improve the play's chance for success.

6. More no huddle: Flacco is a rhythmic passer and he seems to find his groove more quickly operating a no huddle offense.

7. Mix it up: Change up personnel groupings in short yardage situations...The Ravens have failed miserably in situations where they are 3rd or 4th and 2 or less, converting less than 40%. Why not feature a jumbo package with Le'Ron McClain as a tailback and Haloti Ngata as the fullback. Bring in two tight ends and don't be afraid to loosen the defense up when in such a sub package by throwing out of that formation as well. Remember, the more the defense has to think, the slower they play and the better chance for offensive success.

8. Get hot in the red zone...The Ravens are 25th in the league in red zone scoring. That's completely unacceptable with the talent they have. Too often the Ravens run to the middle in the red zone and throw to the outside. The most successful red zone teams seem to do the opposite in the red zone -- throwing to the middle and running to the edge.

Last season, the Ravens were at the top of the league in takeaways per game but they've fallen nearly to last in the league in this category this season. What gives?

The Ravens at the moment are -2 in turnover ratio good for 16th best in the league. It's not as though the offense is giving it away more but rather a case of the defense not forcing turnovers the way they have in the past. Part of this can be attributed to Ed Reed missing the first 6 games of the season. Part of it can also be explained away by a poor pass rush. Reed is now back while defensive coordinator Greg Mattison seems to have found his groove in dialing up a more threatening pass rush thanks to Terrell Suggs who has been a beast over the past few weeks and to Jarret Johnson's improved health.

Which matchup (offense or defense) do you expect the Ravens to try and exploit most often against the Texans?

I expect the Ravens to attack the Texans' weak secondary. They are 31st in the league defending the pass and I fully expect Cam Cameron to test them on Monday with a steady diet of Boldin-Mason-Houshmandzadeh-Stallworth. If the Ravens can successfully neutralize Mario Williams, I expect a big day from Joe Flacco. Fantasy players with Anquan Boldin on their rosters will be rewarded.

Who are the Ravens worried about stopping more on Monday - Andre Johnson or Arian Foster?

Both are huge threats but Johnson isn't exactly healthy so my bet is that they are more concerned about Foster. Winning first down and keeping Foster in check early in the down and distance sequence can take away the threat of play action and allow Terrell Suggs to pin back his ears and put Matt Schaub to the test and hopefully on his back.

Final score prediction:

The Ravens haven't been successful putting teams away and that's always a tough task on the road on Monday night and this time against a well rested team. Some might say they beat up on the Panthers (37-13) but that score isn't indicative of how close to the vest the Ravens played the game. With less than 4 minutes the score was 20-13 before a field goal and a couple of defensive pick 6's. I expect more of the same on Monday, with the Ravens struggling to put away Houston yet ultimately succeeding.



Harryos29 said...

Harry OS 29 Dec 11th
...The TEXANS present a problem for the RAVENS in that they can put up points on the board. However, If Mattison can come up with a game plan to shut down FOSTER and Make Shaub one dimensional, I think they will be OK.
..Hopefully, the Ravens will not employ the ultra conservative game plan that LOST the Steelers game last week..
Ravens fans can only hope